Monday, July 27, 2020

From Ian:

Should There Be a Price for Rejectionism and Terror?
Decades of peace-processing have been premised on the assumption that Palestinian leaders are ready in principle to end the conflict and live with Israel. But Palestinian leaders have never actually been willing to renounce, once and for all, their claims over any of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. President George W. Bush learned this lesson. He wooed Arafat by giving official U.S. endorsement, for the first time, to a Palestinian state, but Arafat rebuffed his overture and, in violation of formal promises, bought a huge arsenal of Iranian weapons and then lied about it.

For decades, Palestinian leaders have refused peace offers that were seen as reasonable by top U.S. officials. What is innovative about the new U.S. peace plan is that it favors imposing consequences if the Palestinians unreasonably perpetuate the conflict. If they continue to support terrorism and reject peace, their cause will suffer. Palestinians are now being told that, if they remain violent and uncompromising, the U.S. will not block Israel from advancing its own claims to areas that, in the administration's view, realistic peace talks would leave to Israel.

The sensible question for the Palestinians is not whether the deal provides everything they think they are entitled to, but whether it is the best deal available - now and in the foreseeable future. The plan's goal is to change the diplomatic circumstances that have perversely incentivized the Palestinian side to keep the conflict going.
Hamas head: We refused $15 billion in aid conditioned on disarming
Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said that his terror group had turned down as much as $15 billion in development aid to Gaza two months ago which he claimed had been conditioned on demilitarizing the Gaza-based terror group.

Haniyeh told Qatari newspaper al-Lusail that the offer had been made in the context of US President Donald Trump’s controversial peace plan, which would allocate $13.38 billion to the Gaza Strip for development if implemented.

“There were parties that came to us two months ago, who we know had been paid off by major powers. They offered us new projects in the Gaza Strip worth about $15 billion. Of course, we said this is excellent, we want to establish an airport, port, and economic development projects in the Gaza Strip,” Haniyeh said.

Both Hamas and its rival Fatah have opposed Trump’s peace plan — often referred to in the region as “the deal of the century” — since it was first published.

Haniyeh, who lives in the Qatari capital of Doha, told al-Lusail that the offer included an end of the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, which began after Hamas took over in the strip in 2007. Israel says the blockade prevents Hamas from importing weapons which it would use to threaten the Jewish state. The blockade has devastating effects on the Gazan economy, however, where unemployment is now over 60 percent.

Haniyeh said that the most recent offer was conditioned on Hamas relinquishing its military capabilities. The Trump peace plan stipulates Hamas’ disarmament as a precondition for negotiations on Palestinian statehood, although it seems unlikely that the Gaza-based terror group would agree to do so unilaterally.

“We learned that, in exchange, we would have to dissolve our military factions and integrate them into the police and retire our weaponry, especially heavy weapons, the rockets that hit Tel Aviv and beyond, and dissolve the capability of Gaza for self-rule,” Haniyeh said.
David Singer: David Singer: Jordan Moves to Resolve West Bank Sovereignty Problem it Created
Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz has made a welcome intervention to resolve the issue of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank).

Razzaz’s offer comes as Israel readies to restore Jewish sovereignty in 30% of Judea and Samaria after an absence of 3000 years – as promulgated by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter – and detailed in President Trump’s deal of the century.

Razzaz has raised the possibility of a “one-state solution” to replace the “two-state solution”:
“We are against unilateral actions. We are against annexation. We are against any steps that are not within an overall scheme that leads to a two-state solution. Short of that, if we’re not going towards a two-state solution, let us know what we’re going towards, what kind of one-state solution we’re going towards.”

The “two-state solution” favoured by the international community for the last 40 years – creating an independent State of Palestine between Israel and Jordan – has long passed its anticipated birth date. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) refusal to sit down with Israel to negotiate creating such a State in Gaza and 70% of Judea and Samaria – as detailed in Trump’s Plan – is the final nail in the coffin for an unattainable solution first aired by the 1980 Venice Declaration.

Razzaz should consider going towards the “Jordan one-state solution” that existed between 1948
and 1967 – after Transjordan:
• invaded and conquered Judea and Samaria in 1948 – ethnically cleansing all Jews then living there
• changed its name in 1949
• unified “the two banks of the Jordan, the Eastern and Western, and their amalgamation in one single state: The Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan” in 1950
• granted Jordanian citizenship to the West Bank Arab residents between 1950 and 1988

Razzaz lays down three conditions for any “one-state solution”:
“Jordan will not absorb transfers of Palestinians. Jordan will not become ‘the’ Palestine, as the Israeli extreme right wishes. And Jordan will not give up its custodianship over [holy Muslim and Christian sites in] Jerusalem. These three are clear for us.”

Marcus Sheff: PA Textbooks "Radicalize Palestinian Children"
Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), spoke to participants in a June 15 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about his organization's fight to eliminate radicalization found in Middle East textbooks and the challenges that still remain.

IMPACT-se has been monitoring textbooks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for the past 20 years because of the power they have to either mitigate or encourage extremist influences. Good textbooks can provide a "powerful barrier against acting out violence," while bad textbooks can serve as "a blueprint for radicalization." IMPACT-se brings pressure to bear on Middle East governments and the international community to bring about change.

Surveying the textbook landscape, Sheff described positive developments in much of the Middle East. King Abdullah of Jordan has "presided over taking out objectionable religious texts." Tunisian textbooks now "educate about the importance of negotiations, peace, and respect for the other. King Mohammed VI in Morocco is currently involved in making similar changes, though IMPACT-se's judgment is being withheld until the new curriculum comes online.

Egypt is slowly reforming textbooks under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. As the largest Arab country, "ideas out of Egypt permeate across the Sunni world," said Sheff. While IMPACT-se has yet to review Egypt's new curriculum, positive changes can be found in the country's history textbooks, which now extol "warm peace with Israel" and emphasize that it is "in the strategic interest of Egypt to have peace with Israel."

Saudi Arabia is a work in progress. Although its leaders have the will to change and some improvements have been made, there is a lot of entrenched extremism and anti-Semitism that needs to be rooted out.

Abu Dhabi Presses Allies to Normalize with Israel
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is gradually obtaining support in its endeavors to normalize relations with Israel, with economic and security interests behind the rapprochement.

The Southern Transitional Council (STC), the Yemeni secessionist movement sponsored by the UAE, has recently shown a willingness to establish relations with Israel, with which it is currently in secret talks.

The same has been said for Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army.

Palestinians close to Mohammed Dahlan, the chief security adviser to Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, are also committed to normalizing relations with Israel.
The Democratic party policy on Israel has failed in India
According to recent media reports, the new draft of the Democratic Party platform is in favor of the Palestinian Arabs “living in freedom and security in a viable state of their own” and is opposed to “any unilateral steps by either side,” which includes applying sovereignty.

If this draft becomes the platform of the Democratic Party, a Joe Biden presidency would advance the establishment of a full-fledged state whose final borders would require the consent of the PA pro-terror leadership.

This would pose a strategic threat to the State of Israel, for once again Israel would be given the choice of either living with the status quo or giving into unreasonable PA demands, with nothing more than the faint hope that maybe this time around it might lead to peace and not more terrorism.

By considering this problematic terminology in the Democratic Party’s platform, it appears that Biden and the other Democrats have not learned from the history of partitioning land.

Let's look at another case where disputed lands were partitioned: Look at the Indian subcontinent, which was partitioned into three independent states: India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, proclaimed:

“Before the partition of 1947, the Hindu population of the British Indian subcontinent was 70 percent and the Muslim population was 28 percent. The remaining 2 percent were Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, etc. In the British Indian subcontinent, Hindus were clearly the majority and Muslims were the minority. After the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947, Hindus were 24 percent of the population of West Pakistan. Now, the Hindu population of the country is 2 percent of the total population. In 1947, the Hindu population of East Pakistan was 30 per cent of the total population, while in the country now transformed into Bangladesh, the Hindu population is 8 percent.” How did that happen? The Hindus were forced out of the Muslim areas for the most part, even though 15% of the population in Hindu India is Muslim.

The partition of India was so bloody that it makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict look not so bad. During the Partition of India, several hundred thousand people were estimated to have been killed, at least 75,000 women were raped, 83,000 women were abducted, many non-Muslims were forcibly converted to Islam, and 12 million people became refugees.
Who in the West shuts their eyes to the Palestinian death ethos?
Israel’s anti-propaganda activities have for decades been characterized by major incompetence. To the extent that these activities exist, one element that does not get prominent attention is the fact that Palestinian society is permeated by a culture of glorifying death and murder.

This is not only true for Hamas which bases its desire to murder Jews on what it calls the divine wish of Allah. It is also true for the Palestinian Authority that rewards terrorist murderers. If terrorists die in criminal action, their monthly financial reward goes to their families. It is not only the Palestinian Authority leadership that glorifies death. There are also many individuals who do so, including some mothers of those who have died in terrorist action.

How could Israel and its friends have exposed this culture of glorification of death? A first target should have been the Christian world. Part of the death ethos has a theological base. Many Muslim murderers also elsewhere in the world shout "Allah Akbar" (Allah is great), before committing their crime. Christians cannot walk away from their Biblical texts where it says in the Ten Commandments "Thou shalt not kill."

One prominent major anti-Israel Christian organization is the World Council of Churches. It groups mainly Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations. New theological examples of quoting G-d as a promoter of murder by Palestinian would-be terrorists should be presented to the WCC on a regular basis. This action should be undertaken by the Israeli government, or interested organizations, and all concerned individuals.

Another target for such illumination are the churches which boycott Israel and knowingly look away from Palestinian murders and crime. One of these is the American Presbyterian Church. At its assembly on June 25, 2018 a resolution on the violence between Gazan Palestinians and Israeli troops on the border of the coastal strip was passed. Originally though it also referred to Hamas. Yet all such references to this genocidal terrorist organization were taken out before it was adopted. This is a clear case of Christian leaders knowingly closing their eyes to structural murder.
Christian Aid Charities Help Radical Islam Lobby Congress
Christians have long viewed the James 1:27’s admonition about caring for “widows and orphans” as integral to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Indeed, Christians have long donated generously to foreign aid organizations. Countless Christian organizations have made it a key part of their faith mission to mitigate famine in Africa, recover from natural disasters in Asia, and protect the vulnerable during civil wars in Latin America.

Yet this laudable goal is fraught with peril. Operating in areas of conflict can result in being played as patsies for terrorists and dictators. The enormous Christian aid charity World Vision, for example, has been called out multiple times for funding and working with terrorists in Gaza, Sudan, and Lebanon. In recent years, this problem has been widely exposed; one would hope that renewed efforts on the part of Christian aid charities would ensure these kinds of mistakes didn’t happen again.

However, one thing that has received very little attention is Christian charities’ collaboration with domestic aid organizations that have radical, Islamist ideologies. As difficult as it may be to believe, a large number of Christian charities are inadvertently helping to shield a number of such aid organizations from legitimate concerns of radicalism and terror finance.

InterAction, which bills itself as the largest alliance of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world, was founded in 1984 and represents over 180 different charities. A significant proportion of InterAction members are faith-based organizations, including at least 30 self-identified Christian charities,* alongside various Islamic, Buddhist, and Jewish charities. This large and influential organization seeks to “mobilize our Members to think and act collectively to serve the world’s poor and vulnerable.”

Partnering with groups of other faiths to achieve a common goal is certainly unobjectionable. However, InterAction’s activities go far beyond simple assistance with international aid efforts. Shockingly, in 2017, InterAction created the “Together Project,” a sub-umbrella specifically aimed at stifling criticism of five specific Islamist charities that are InterAction members. These five charities have been called out by various scholars and researchers, members of Congress, and journalists for being franchises of radical networks, with several involved in terror finance.
Why did a Four Star General land in Israel during a pandemic?
It’s not every day that the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff lands in Israel. It’s even rarer for such a visit to occur during a global pandemic, and even stranger when Israel seems to be the only stop on the trip.

US Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley arrived on Friday at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel and met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other senior defense officials, like Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and the head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen.

Milley also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Kochavi, over a video conference call, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and discussed the ongoing threats posed by Iran and the various security challenges in the region.
His visit comes amid a rise in tensions between Israel, the US and the Islamic Republic.

More than a dozen mysterious explosions and fires targeting Iran’s missile and nuclear program have rocked Iran in recent weeks. But Tehran has not pinned the blame on Israel and has tried to downplay the incidents.

Nevertheless, Iran has apparently attempted a number of cyberattacks against Israel – similar to an attack on the country’s water infrastructure facilities in April. They were all thwarted.
Coronavirus wards at four of Israel’s largest hospitals are full
Coronavirus wards at four of Israel’s largest hospitals are full, with a fifth nearing total capacity, according to the Health Ministry, as the number of serious COVID-19 cases in the country continued to rise, placing a strain on the healthcare system.

The Health Ministry also recorded general overload in the hospitals, with two major Jerusalem medical centers and the largest hospitals in Tel Aviv and nearby Ramat Gan operating near or above full capacity.

According to the Health Ministry, over 700 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized around the country, including 317 listed in serious condition, about one-third of whom are on ventilators.

The ministry said Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem was operating at 120 percent capacity while its virus treatment department was at 152% capacity. At Shaare Zedek Medical Center, also in the capital, wards were at 104% capacity and the virus department at 106%, the ministry said.

In Tel Aviv, the Ichilov Medical Center was at 104% capacity, with 110% for its virus department, and Sheba Medical Center, the country’s largest hospital, was at 99.56% capacity with 90% of its coronavirus department filled.

Another hospital, Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, near Tel Aviv, was at 66.89% of its maximum capacity but its virus ward was at 110%.
IDF Intelligence: Hamas Still Seeks Israel's Destruction, But Not Immediately
"Hamas is not interested in a confrontation with Israel," says Col. Amit, the Intelligence Officer of the IDF Southern Command. "The governing component in Hamas is getting stronger. From the start, Hamas had two identities - a religious resistance organization and a national movement. Since 2007, it has also taken on an identity as the sovereign power in Gaza, and it is being assessed as such on a daily basis."

"The main factor that determines the reality of Hamas is the economy. It's the first thing that both the leaders and the public wake up to, and the last thing they go to sleep with....It does everything with a long-term ceasefire in mind, because it has no other solution....Ideologically, it has not changed. It still does not want the State of Israel to exist....But there is no urgency for it for that to happen immediately."

Gaza is one place that has coped with the coronavirus pandemic successfully. Hamas implemented forced isolation of three weeks for whoever enters Gaza, and strict daily rules. "Hamas is a serious organization. They closed everything. Every guideline of our Health Ministry was enforced over there."
IDF thwarts Hezbollah terror cell infiltration along border with Lebanon
The IDF thwarted a Hezbollah terror attack near Mount Dov along the border with Lebanon on Monday afternoon, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said after the military announced that a "serious security incident" was taking place along the border.

The cell, which numbered three to five Hezbollah operatives, crossed the border – also known as the Blue Line – several meters into sovereign Israeli territory and were identified by the IDF, which opened fire on them with machine guns and tank shells.

The cell fled back into Lebanon without firing at IDF troops, Zilberman said, denying reports that anti-tank guided missiles were fired during the incident. "We have some tense days ahead," the IDF general said.

While the condition of the Hezbollah fighters is unclear, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news outlet reported that no Hezbollah fighters were killed during the failed attack. There were no IDF injuries or casualties.

There had been unconfirmed reports of an exchange of fire along the border, with photos released by Hezbollah-affiliated reporters on Twitter showed plumes of smoke near Kfarchouba in southern Lebanon near Israel’s Har Dov area, after reports that the IDF had fired shells toward the area.

United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) chief Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col contacted both Israeli and Lebanese forces during the incident in an attempt to restore quiet along the border.

According to various Lebanese media reports, a Hezbollah cell fired anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) towards an IDF vehicle near the southern Shebaa Farms area, and the IDF responded by shelling Lebanese territory.

Israel’s Gas Rigs are High-Priority Targets for Hezbollah, Warns Top Israeli Navy Commander
Hezbollah wants to attack Israel from the sea and is developing capabilities that will allow it to do so in a future conflict, warns outgoing commander of the Israeli Navy’s Haifa base, Brig. Gen. Gil Aginsky, who last week retired after 32 years of military service.

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Aginsky cited the tension on the northern border and the threats Hezbollah has been making, and said that the Israeli Navy was prepared to confront the challenges awaiting it, no matter how serious.

“The challenge we are grappling with is twofold—from the sea, and from under the sea. On the water, we know how to deal with any scenario, including some very complicated ones. When it comes to the underwater sphere, we are in the process of arming ourselves and dealing with a challenge that is unique to us,” said Aginsky.

“We’re talking about a ‘blue tunnel.’ You can blow up every terror tunnel under the Gaza Strip, but our ‘tunnel’ is enormous. The basic assumption is that Hezbollah wants to infiltrate [Israel] via the sea. They aren’t there to grow flowers. They intend to prevent us from being here, and if they can execute that intention from the sea, they will,” said Aginsky, adding, “Our job is to prevent that. We are holding onto the northern border fast and covering the entire zone.”

Israel is marking the 14th anniversary of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, during which terrorists fired a missile at the INS Hanit warship, which was on operation 16 kilometers (10 miles) off Beirut’s shores. Four Israeli sailors were killed.
Report: Russian-Backed Militia Gaining Control in Syrian Golan Heights
The Russians have established their own strong militia in the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel's N12 reported Friday.

The "Huran Army" is headed by a local rebel commander, Ahmed al-Ouda, who fought against Syrian President Assad.

The militia, with Muslim officers from the Caucasus, is hostile to both Iran and the Syrian regime.

Many of the militia's recruits were rebels who in the past benefited from Israeli aid, with treatment at hospitals, food and medical supplies.
Tel Aviv Court Rules That Israel Can Seize PA ‘Pay-for-Slay’ Stipends
Israel’s Tel Aviv District Court handed down an unprecedented ruling Sunday, saying that the state had the right to seize funds the Palestinian Authority is paying terrorists jailed in Israel.

The court’s ruling followed a petition by the relatives of Mansur Omar, convicted of aiding and abetting a 2005 terrorist attack in which six Israelis were killed, to prevent the state from seizing his PA-provided funds.

Israel’s Counterterrorism Law of 2016 lists provisions according to which the Defense Ministry can seize “pay‐for‐slay” stipends ‐‐ funds Ramallah pays jailed terrorists and the families of terrorists killed while committing attacks against Israel. The Palestinian Authority’s “pay‐for‐slay” policy has been widely condemned by Israel and the United States.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to retire the policy, declaring the PA will continue to pay terrorists’ salaries “even if it has to spend its last penny to do so.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded the ruling, saying that he plans to “move forward with a variety of moves through the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing [within the Defense Ministry] to block the transfer of funds to terrorists and terrorist organizations.”
PMW: PMW’s recommendation to seize terror money in banks upheld by Israeli court
Last December as part of a comprehensive report on combatting PA rewarding of Israeli Arab terrorists, Palestinian Media Watch recommended that Israel’s Minister of Defense seize the funds from the Israeli bank accounts in which the PA deposits salaries to these terrorists.

A few days later, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett, responded and announced that for the first time, Israel would seize the PA payments to the Israeli Arab terrorists. A number of “Seizure Orders” were signed for millions of shekels that the PA had paid to the terrorists.

One of the terrorists, Israeli Arab Fahri Omar, has been paid hundreds of thousands of shekels in monthly salaries as a reward for his involvement in the 2005 suicide attack in the Israeli city of Hadera, in which six people were murdered and dozens injured.

Omar appealed the decision to seize his money to the Israeli courts. Yesterday, the Tel Aviv District Court rejected Omar’s appeal, thereby affirming PMW’s initiative.

PMW is pleased that the Israeli government is taking concrete steps in the war against the PA’s terror financing, and expects that this policy of seizing the bank accounts in which terrorists receive their terror salaries will soon be expanded to all the banks in the PA areas.
MEMRI: Palestinian Journalists: Halting Of Civil Coordination With Israel A Mistake That Exacerbates Our Economic Crisis
The decision of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to halt the security and the civil coordination with Israel is already impacting the Palestinian economy and giving rise to criticism in the Palestinian press. The decision, taken in response to Israel's intention to annex part of the West Bank on the basis of the Trump administration's peace initiative,[1] created a severe deficit in the PA budget. This is because a large portion of this budget consists of Palestinian tax revenues that are collected by Israel on the PA's behalf and later transferred to the PA. As part of its decision to end the civil coordination, the PA has been refusing to accept these funds from Israel.[2]

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the economic crisis even further, especially after the PA was forced to re-impose a general lockdown to suppress the second wave of the virus. This, coupled with the loss of the tax revenues held by Israel, resulted in a severe decline in the PA's income, to the extent that it has been unable to pay its employees on a regular basis. For example, in early July 2020 PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced that public sector employees were about to receive half their pay for the month of May.[3]

In light of this situation, several Palestinian journalists criticized the PA's decision to halt the civil coordination with Israel amid the coronavirus crisis, calling this a grave mistake. They wrote that the decision had been taken hastily out of an urge to punish Israel for its annexation plans, and without any strategic consideration of the economic situation or any attempt to identify alternative sources of revenue. They also noted that the suspension of the civil coordination with Israel harmed the Palestinians more than Israel, and argued that the PA should have sufficed with halting the security coordination at this stage and maintained the civil coordination in order to keep the Palestinian economy from collapsing.

It should be noted that the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, also implicitly criticized the PA for its refusal to accept the tax revenues transferred by Israel. In his July 21 monthly briefing to the UN Security Council, he noted that this had worsened the fiscal crisis of the PA, which "faces the risk of a total collapse at a time when Palestinians throughout the occupied territory need the services and support of their government more than ever."[4]
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: The Priorities of Muslim 'Scholars' During COVID-19
These religious leaders say they are also worried about other "epidemics" that post a threat to Arabs and Muslims, such as peace with Israel and women's rights.

The Muslim "scholars" also seem concerned about the possibility that Palestinian women may be coming closer to being given rights that are now accorded only to men. For these religious figures, the prospect of women being treated equally and with respect appears to be more of a threat than the coronavirus.

Across the globe, people are preoccupied with preventing the spread of the coronavirus and rescuing the global economy. The world's best minds are racing against time to invent a vaccine that will save the lives of millions of people threatened by COVID-19. The pandemic has caused panic about basic living conditions, health and livelihood.

Palestinian Islamic leaders, meanwhile, are busying themselves with the religious implications of menstruation. For these leaders, it is peace with Israel, not the virus, that is imperiling the health of Arabs and Muslims.

These Muslim leaders appear to be more interested in preventing women from working under unbiased conditions than about those individuals suffering from the pandemic. They also seem to be more interested in demonizing Israel than in dealing with the demon called COVID-19.
Iran regime grapples with its worst crisis, hamstrung by internal power struggle
Iranian officials have not been quick to blame Israel or the U.S. for a stream of mysterious explosions and fires over the past few weeks, aside from the July 2 blast at the nuclear facility in Natanz. Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian Diplomatic and Security Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, suspects "somebody's trying to weaken President Rouhani and tarnish his public image."

After Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei apparently blocked an attempt to pass a motion of no confidence in Rouhani in the Iranian Majlis (parliament), "all of a sudden, there has been a significant fall in the number of fires and explosions."

"In my estimation, the Iranian leadership is trying these days first and foremost to survive, at least until the U.S. presidential election," Javedanfar said. "They understand that even if Joe Biden is elected, he isn't expected to lift the sanctions immediately."

"Tehran's stock market is somehow booming," Javedanfar said. "The Telegram channel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps encourages the public to invest in the stock exchange. Do you understand? People who can't make a living are selling their cars, farmers are selling their tractors, in the hope of getting rich via the stock market."

A new agreement between China and Iran has received significant attention, according to which China will invest in Iran. But it is doubtful whether this deal has substance. It seems more like a statement of intent meant to serve Iranian interests by giving hope to the public. The deal includes no concrete elements.
Iran’s bizarre, giant fake US aircraft carrier towed to Straits of Hormuz
Iran has a giant fake aircraft carrier that it has used over the years to practice with during naval drills to show off that it can attack US carriers. Now the lumbering model boat is on the move, satellite photos show.

The US usually has at least one aircraft carrier somewhere near the Persian Gulf. Iran often harassed US naval ships in the Persian Gulf using fast boats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In April, President Donald Trump said the US would sink Iranian boats that harass American warships.

The aircraft carrier is usually docked near the Port of Bandar Abbas. In recent days there was a mysterious explosive noise heard in Qeshm Island, just offshore. In addition, the oil tanker Gulf Sky, which is at the center of an international dispute amid accusations that an IRGC front company bought it, is also anchored off the island, after being allegedly hijacked from the coast of the UAE on July 6.

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